Egyptian authorities have arrested an activist who was an icon of the 2011 revolution as part of a sweeping crackdown to quell rare public protests against President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi.
The family of Alaa Abdel-Fattah, who rose to prominence during the popular uprisings that ended Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year hold on power, said he was arrested on Sunday during probation arrangements that require him to spend every night for five years in a police station.
Mr Abdel-Fattah’s relatives and lawyer said he failed to emerge at 6am from the Cairo police station where he had spent the night.
“Alaa was kidnapped during probation from Dokki police station and we don’t know where he is now, but at the station they told us he is going to the state security prosecution service,” Mona Seif, his sister, said on Twitter.
The government has arrested more than 2,000 people since scattered protests erupted in Cairo and several towns on September 20, according to civil society groups.
The state prosecution said on Friday that it had questioned no more than a thousand people and instructed investigators to report on their social media accounts.
The government deployed security forces across Cairo and closed off roads to Tahrir Square, which was the centre of the 2011 uprising, at the weekend to prevent a repeat of the protests. Agence France-Presse, the French news agency, confirmed that one small protest went ahead in Warraq island in Cairo, before demonstrators were dispersed by police firing tear gas. The news agency said similar small-scale demonstrations were held in a couple of towns in the south of the country.
A pro-Sisi rally was held in a northeastern suburb of the capital.
The demonstrations have been spurred by calls from Mohamed Ali, a disgruntled building contractor who fled the country and has been posting daily YouTube videos calling for a revolt against Mr Sisi.
Mr Ali says he is owed millions by the army and has alleged corruption and misuse of public funds by Mr Sisi and the military. The president has dismissed his claims as lies and fabrications and praised the army for its role in building large infrastructure projects.
HA Hellyer, a senior fellow at the Royal United Services Institute, said the arrest of Mr Abdel-Fattah “will be taken as a cautionary message to others, rather than as evidence that he himself is seen as some kind of dangerous fiend”.
He noted that the generation of activists inspired by Mr Abdel-Fattah and who took part in the 2011 revolution, had not been taking to the streets in response to Mr Ali’s urging.
“There is hardly any threat obvious from someone who is in police custody from 6pm to 6am every day and the authorities are likely aware of that,” Mr Hellyer said.
Mr Abdel-Fattah was first arrested in 2013 on charges, which he denies, of calling for an unauthorised demonstration. He was released in March after serving a five-year sentence, but has to report to a police station at 6pm every day and remain there for the next 12 hours.
Mohamed al Baqer, a lawyer who attended the interrogation of Mr Abdel-Fattah by the state security prosecution on Sunday, was also arrested, according to the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights, a civil society group.
Authorities last week arrested other prominent human rights activists and critics of the regime. These included Mahienour al-Masry, a well-known human rights lawyer, Khaled Daoud, a journalist and former leader of the Dostour opposition party, and Hassan Nafea and Hazem Hosni, two outspoken politics professors. Two leaders of small leftist opposition parties were also arrested.